Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

Written by Robert Rodriguez
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

When I take my children to the movies, I usually look forward to being entertained as well as my children. Many movies work on two levels: one for children and one for adults.

This movie, however, does not.

The first film was cute and sweet with the premise of the children – Carmen and Juni (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) – finding out their decidedly “uncool” parents were actually spies. This movie seems devoid of the charm and wonderment present in the first film, and instead hits us over the head with a myriad of gadgets and effects.

After seeing what a great job the Cortez children did in the first film the OSS – which is the spy organization their Gregorio and Ingrid (Antonio Baderas and Carla Gugino) work for – sets up a new division called (drumroll….) Spy Kids! Carmen and Juni work for this division along with a myriad of other pint-size spies. Most notoriously are their rivals: Gary and Gerti Giggles (Matthew O’Leary and Emily Osmet).

There’s never any real explanation given for why there is such a rivalry between the two sets of kids. The impression is given that Gary and Gerti enjoy stealing the credit for a variety of missions. This is shown immediately with the rescue of the President’s bratty daughter (Taylor Momsen) at an amusement park. While Carmen and Juni initiate the rescue, Gary and Gerti come along and manage to steal all of the credit.

There are complex relationships here as well. Carmen has a crush on Gary and doesn’t seem to harbor the intense hatred for him or Gerti that her brother does. Likewise, Juni develops a crush on the President’s daughter.

At the dinner to present the new head of the OSS, a gadget is stolen from the President’s possession which is the prototype for a bigger machine that has the ability to shut down all the electronic devices in the world. Though both Gary and Juni are at fault for the device getting into unknown hands, Juni is solely blamed and initially dismissed from the OSS Spy Kids.

Carmen’s intervention allows them to hijack the mission originally given to Gary and Gerti as they go off in search of the gadget. It takes this long for us to land on the island which is a direct rip-off of The Island of Dr. Moreau. A spider monkey is just that – a spider body with a monkey head. A horsefly is part horse, part fly.

I’d like to say I was dazzled with all of the special effects – the crazy animal combinations and miniature zoo; I’d like to say that the James-Bond-like gadgets were impressive. Unfortunately, they might have been but I couldn’t wait for the film to be over. The story was so boring that it took away from other parts that were good. It takes too long to get to the island – the movie is more than halfway over before we start seeing the crazy animal creatures. There is too much time spent on the unexplained rivalry between the two sets of children – I got the picture of who likes who and who doesn’t like who, you don’t have to keep hitting me over the head with it.

Another problem was the cramming in of various guest performers. Ingrid’s parents are here in a bit that seems like it’s just an excuse to have Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor in the film. Likewise, Alan Cumming, Cheech Marin and Bill Paxton are essentially a waste in the film.

Steve Buscemi is wonderful as the mad doctor/scientist who creates the island – it’s the best performance in the film. I’ll admit that there are few Buscemi performances I don’t like, but here I think his subtle, quirky performance overshadows all of the rest of the cast which seems to be taking themselves too seriously.

However, my children did enjoy the film. That is the only reason I am marginally recommending it. While it’s not one they came out of asking me when they can see it again, it did satisfy them on a rainy afternoon. I also don’t know how well it will hold up to repeated views on the VCR for them.

Before anyone thinks about making a Spy Kids 3, I’d suggest they come up with a good, solid script with an entertaining story and then take it from there.